SINGAPORE - No.5 seed Venus Williams recovered from a set down to end Caroline Garcia’s inspired run and return to the championship match at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
Venus’ emphatic 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3 comeback victory has earned her a final matchup with Caroline Wozniacki for the 2017 WTA Finals title. The American last took home the title in 2008 and reached the final in 2009 before marking an eight-year absence from the season-ending event.
“Garcia has competed so well this whole tournament, and every time I thought I was getting close she played amazing,” Venus said in her on-court interview. “It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings - but I’m not fat!”
“[In the final] I’m going to be playing against one of the best players in the tournament, and another Caroline! It’s going to be like deja vu!” Venus added, laughing. “But I’m really happy, she’s a great friend and I’m really happy that one of us will win tomorrow.”
Garcia came out firing, playing aggressively from the start but seemed to hesitate at the big moments. She earned the first break of the match to put herself ahead 2-0, but Venus was right back in it in the next game, leaving them level for the rest of the set.
They had each the other under plenty of pressure; 10 break points were created between the two - including one which gave Garcia a set point off Venus’ serve - but both players held firm to bring up a tiebreak.
Venus’ serve seemed to be breaking down towards the end, though, giving Garcia plenty of looks at vulnerable second serves from which to tee off, stepping far inside the court to rip her returns. Garcia got ahead 3-0 in the decider and consolidated to 5-3 as routine shots seemed to get away from Venus.
But things looked dicey for the Frenchwoman in the second set as Venus recovered in emphatic fashion to break early and get ahead to a 3-0 lead. Garcia eventually got her name on the scoreboard but couldn’t manage to recover the break, as - perhaps in a sign of nerves - she kept trying to finish off points too quickly and ended up making loose errors. Venus needed three set points but finally closed out the set to send the match into a third set.
With both players dialed in, there wasn’t much to separate Venus and Garcia for much of the final set. The first seven games went the way of the server, until Garcia finally blinked late in the set leaving Venus in the position to serve for the match. But just as it looked like the match had one final twist, with Garcia digging out three chances to grab the break straight back, Venus denied her once again to emerge victorious after the two-hour and thirty-two minute battle.
“I was missing a little bit of energy in the second and third set,” Garcia reflected afterwards. “I mean, it was very intense this match and she played some great tennis. She was changing direction very well, she was aggressive.
“You know, I just missed a couple of short balls that I didn't make enough difference, and she passed me. But it was, I guess, very close.”
Through to the final after advancing with a 2-1 record out of the Group Stage, Venus is looking to become the eighth player to lose a match in the round robin stage and go on to win the WTA Finals title. It’s already happened three times in a row in Singapore: Serena Williams in 2014, Agnieszka Radwanska in 2015 and Dominika Cibulkova in 2016.
And, if she wins the title, the Australian Open and Wimbledon finalist will also become the first player since Gabriela Sabatini in 1994 to win the WTA Finals as her sole title of the year.